High Wizardry in Children’s Books
By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager
Reading magical fantasy is just fun. You never know where an author will take you, and that unlimited imaginative possibility is what keeps readers coming back for more. When Harry Potter swept the literary world into a wizard frenzy, many adults rediscovered the excitement of reading children’s literature. Why stop there? Here are some magical tales, old and new, that will whisk you away to enchanting adventures, no matter your age.
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell combines excitement with creepiness and humor. Readers who enjoy Roald Dahl may want to give it a try. “Once there was magic,” it begins, but now Warriors work tirelessly to rid the world of all magic, good or bad. What will happen if the very worst kind of magic sneaks back in? Cowell’s illustrations throughout are also a delight.
The Train to Impossible Places: A Cursed Delivery by P. G. Bell wastes no time. She hooks the reader from the very first railroad track being laid down the center of Suzy’s living room floor. If Suzy is to understand anything ever again, she knows she must find a way to get on the Impossible Postal Express.
If you like your tales to sound magical as you roll the words off your tongue, try Garret Weyr’s new book, The Language of Spells. Weyr’s mesmerizing writing easily transports you to the time of Grisha’s birth in 1803, a time when dragons were not so scarce. Grisha is an ordinary dragon who meets Maggie, an ordinary girl. “Magic is funny in that way: It chooses those who might not choose themselves,” writes Weyr. “In fact, one of the many rules governing the world of magic is that if you pay attention, you will understand how magic has chosen you. And why.” Such an invitation is hard to resist.
The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Kahn Gale puts a spin on the Merlin legend by telling the story through the eyes of Nosewise, Merlin’s pet dog. When Morgana puts a magical amulet around his neck for fun, Nosewise is surprised to hear his thoughts come out as actual words. Now that he can speak, what else can he do, and will it be enough to save his master?
In Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, Morrigan is cursed, and everyone knows it. Anything unfortunate that happens in her village is immediately blamed on her, and she must write an apology — “one to the Jackalfax Jam Society for a ruined batch of marmalade,” for example. The worst part of the curse is that Morrigan is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday…until Jupiter North arrives.
Diana Wynne Jones was one of the great fantasy authors who wrote classics for kids, teens, and adults. In the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, a series of six books and four short stories, the Chrestomanci is a sort of supervisor for the magical version of England. The first one written is Charmed Life, but another good entry point is Witch Week, which takes place in a world very much like ours. Wynne Jones’s Dalemark Quartet, beginning with Cart & Cwidder, consists of three seemingly unrelated books taking place in a vaguely medieval fantasy world, and a fourth book set in the present that ties them all together in mind-blowing ways.
For a more modern fantasy that blends with science, try Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books. The first book, So You Want to be a Wizard, introduces Nita and Kit, young teens who have just discovered wizardry and are on their “ordeal,” a big quest that each new wizard has to complete. In Duane’s world, the purpose of wizardry is to fight entropy, and their spells are full of mathematical calculations. The tenth book in the series, Games Wizards Play, is the most recent, and she’s still writing.
For some magic in Manhattan, join us at the library to celebrate J. K. Rowling’s wizard phenomenon on Harry Potter Book Night, February 7, from 6:00-8:00. Kids are invited to dress in character if they wish and enter Hogwarts on the library’s 2nd floor. Each House will be represented, as well as many different classrooms. Librarians and members of the local chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance will present activities, crafts, snacks and photo ops to create a magical experience for Harry Potter book lovers.